Lagos - The Nigerian Prisons Service has confirmed that three inmates died while two warders were injured during a riot in an overcrowded jail in Lagos.

"From the reports I gathered, three inmates died during the protest. No staff died. Though two warders were hospitalised following injuries they sustained," Acting Comptroller General of Prisons Okwara Uche Kalu told reporters late on Wednesday.

Kalu's statement contradicted an earlier one by Internal Affairs Minister Mogaji Mohammed that nobody was killed on Tuesday when warders fired shots to quell a protest by inmates of Ikoyi Prison against an attempt by guards to confiscate weapons and move some of them to another jail.

"The protest started when our officers were conducting a routine search of the prisoners. It was in the process the inmates set the office ablaze. Some prison records were also burnt," Kalu said.

He said the warders discovered during the search that some inmates were in possession of weapons like cutlasses, knives, daggers and mobile telephones.

The prison boss said the inmates objected to a decision to transfer them to another jail because of overcrowding.

"The movement of the inmates was for their own good. We are not supposed to tell them ahead of time that we are moving them," he said.

"Ikoyi Prison is congested whereas at Kirikiri maximum and medium security prisons, we have a lot of space where some of the inmates could be accommodated," he added.

Ikoyi is a medium security prison. It was built to house 800 prisoners but when the pressure group Human Rights Watch visited in March this year there were 2 130 inmates, all but 95 of them suspects on remand awaiting trial. Some inmates complained of torture. - Sapa-AFP